In the past decade, A24 has evolved into a cinematic phenomenon, with films released under its banner, particularly those in the horror genre, garnering substantial attention. Credit must be given to A24 for consistently exploring different themes, setting itself apart from mainstream horror cinema. By infusing its distinct style into these themes, it manages to distance itself from the conventional, struggling horror genre. However, A24’s biggest challenge with its horror films lies in the disparity between concept and execution, a problem that unfortunately afflicts “Talk To Me” as well.
Upon its initial announcement and especially after the release of its trailer, the film initially captivated my interest, but regrettably, it ultimately conforms to the classic A24 horror formula. While it boasts a compelling concept and reasonably competent execution, it ultimately fails to reach a satisfying conclusion.
Let’s briefly delve into the plot. Hayley (Zoe Terakes) and Joss (Chris Alosio) attempt to capitalize on the mysterious properties of a hand sculpture they discover, turning it into an evening’s entertainment and growing their social media presence with the madness that unfolds at night. Anyone who touches the statue and says “Talk to Me” successfully communicates with the spirits of the deceased. However, when “Let me in” is uttered, the spirit takes control of the body touching the sculpture, speaking through it. Unaware that some spirits manage to remain connected to the living, the youths believe that, as long as the rules are followed, the spirit remains on the other side.
The screenplay of the film, crafted by Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman, and Daley Pearson, presents an undeniably creative concept. Directors Michael Philippou and Danny Philippou effectively utilize the original idea at the outset. The film attempts to build its narrative around the unstoppable curiosity of young individuals, and for a while, it manages to hold the audience’s attention. However, when the story departs from its established order and ventures into the realm of the living interacting with the dead, the film’s pace unfortunately falters. This, too, is a classic A24 dilemma: a promising concept with a weak outcome.
The film essentially tells the audience what will happen at a certain point. The youthful fascination with spirits must somehow lead to a dire outcome. But how? One of the spirits should escape. Quite conventional, but always powerful. My expectation as a viewer was for the escaped spirit to unleash terror. After all, we witness the visuals and conversations of the spirits that the youngsters encounter, and it becomes apparent that none of them are benevolent. However, despite the film’s investment in building tension during the sequence involving the spirit escaping through Riley (Joe Bird), it ultimately delivers a much lower level of suspense than anticipated. If we were to divide the film into two acts, one before Riley and one after, the first act excels, but the second act fails to live up to the tension it creates, sadly offering a much slower pace than the initial part.
Sophie Wilde, portraying the character Mia, delivers an absolutely outstanding performance. The film effectively utilizes Mia’s need to reach her mother and her consequent poor decision-making, skillfully playing on the theme of youthful foolishness. The film’s tension is built through Mia’s series of wrong decisions throughout. It’s a simple and classic method of storytelling. The writers and directors do not encounter any issues in character development and storytelling; in fact, they excel in these aspects. If they had followed through and surpassed the promise they set up in the first act during the second act, this could have been a memorable film for years to come. However, I must admit that I appreciated the ending, even if it was somewhat predictable, as I found it to be the most logical and fitting conclusion.
In summary, “Talk To Me” presents an exciting thriller with its original concept in the first act, but unfortunately tumbles downhill in the second act. The film should have gained strength, especially after the sequence involving the escaping spirit alongside Riley, but it loses momentum and concludes with a much weaker ending than expected. If only the second act had matched even a fraction of the intensity of the first act, this could have been a much better film. Sadly, perhaps my high expectations contributed to this disappointment. I was hoping for a more robust and striking film, which I did find in the first act. However, during the second act, I lost all my concentration on the film.
Cast & Crew
director: Michael Philippou, Danny Philippou
writers: Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman, Daley Pearson
starring: Sophie Wilde, Joe Bird, Miranda Otto, Zoe Terakes, Chris Alosio, Otis Dhanji, Alexandra Jensen
UK – AUSTRALIA | 2023 | 95 MINUTES |